ALEXANDRIA – Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr believes the extra two days rest his team had over the Indomitable Lions coupled with his team’s familiarity with the Alexandria Stadium were huge factors in Nigeria’s pulsating 3-2 Round of 16 defeat of the defending champions in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.
Nigeria played their last group match against Madagascar on Sunday, June 30 while Cameroon took to the field two days later in their goalless draw against Benin. In addition, the Super Eagles had played all their group games at the Alexandria Stadium while Cameroon had to travel down from Ismailia where they were based during the group stages.
Stephane Bahoken had cancelled Ighalo’s 19th-minute opener before Clinton Njie gave Cameroon the lead a minute before the break. The Super Eagles rallied in the second half to score two quickfire goals through Ighalo in the 63rd minute and Alex Iwobi’s winner three minutes later.
Speaking in the post-match conference, Rohr attributed Nigeria’s second-half renaissance to the twin factors of being much fresher than their opponents and playing in very familiar surroundings.
“I must say that we had two days more than Cameroon to prepare this match, I think that in the second half, in the end, you saw that we had, perhaps a little bit more fitness than them, they had to travel, they had to move from Ismailia to here,” Rohr said in explaining side’s ascendancy and Cameroon’s decline in the second half.
Nigeria had seemed in control of the game just before the 40th-minute mark before a strange nervousness spread through their backline and led them to concede two goals in three minutes.
A lack of concentration, Rohr said, was responsible for both goals conceded by his side and the improved display in the second half from his side was down to better organisation in midfield which had been a major focus of his tactical tweaks at the break.
Nigeria’s coach was particularly pleased with the attitude shown by his “young team” who he said showed plenty of fight and never gave up throughout the encounter.
“This victory was a difficult match. Cameroon has a very good team everybody knows it. We dominated in the beginning, we scored a good goal, and then in the end of the first half, there was a lack of concentration and Cameroon was very realistic.
“In the half time, we try to have a better organization in the midfield and also to believe still in the victory, our players had a disappointment in the first half but I think my young team is able to continue to fight and is never giving up. And so, we were more realistic in the second half but also better organisation in the midfield.”
Nigeria will play South Africa in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at the Cairo International Stadium after Bafana Bafana pulled off the upset of the tournament by stunning record AFCON winners and hosts Egypt on Saturday.